Hamstrings are made up of three muscles located on the backside of the thigh. These three muscles originate behind the pelvis and extend below the knee, behind the upper calf muscle. Two of these hamstring muscles pass the knee on the inner side while the third “hammy” inserts on the outer shin above the calf muscle. Hamstrings assist with slowing the motion of the knee while running, extending the hip, bending the knee, and rotating the shin with the femur bone when changing direction.
Five Common Factors of Hamstring Strains in the NFL
This year’s NFL Training Camps are producing more pulled hamstrings than expected. Strained hamstrings have a way of adding to the stress level of everyone, as the player, coaches, and athletic trainers search for both the cause and solution. Addressing the following factors on Day #1 can help keep players on the field.
- Fatigue - Weak muscles are vulnerable muscles. Running fast and changing direction magnify the role of the hamstring, increasing the potential for fiber failure. Wide receivers, defensive backs, and running backs typically head the list for pulled hamstrings.
- Dehydration – Muscle dehydration is often overlooked in regards to muscle strains. Dehydrated muscles become less effective when forced to contract and quickly relax. High speed or high volume activities can “dry up” a muscle and lead to a strain.
- Muscle Imbalance – Strong or primary muscles, such as the hamstrings, do more work than less important muscles, like the hip rotators or lower abs. This imbalance becomes worse with high speed activity.
- Poor Warm-Up - A player who has been standing around for 10 minutes and is suddenly thrown in for a special play or high-intensity drill is at risk for a hamstring strain. Just because they are sweating on the outside doesn’t mean their muscles on the inside are prepared to contract/relax at full capacity.
- Body Compensation – Due to the frequency and speed of movement, the work load on an NFL player’s hamstring is high. As a result, other muscles such as the calves, groin, and “glutes” need to help more. When the muscles above or below the hammies don’t do their job, the long hamstring muscles pay the price.